KARACHI — Pakistani officers arrested a man at Karachi airport on Sunday after batteries and an electrical circuit were found in his shoes as he tried to board a plane for the Middle East, an official said.
The 30-year-old civil engineer allegedly told interrogators he came from Pakistan's northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Taliban and Islamist militants have a presence, and had been scheduled to travel to Muscat by Thai Airways.
Mohammad Munir, Airport Security Force spokesman, said the bearded man, whom he named as Faiz Mohammad, was arrested when a scanner sounded an alarm.
The suspect was not found in possession of explosives, but Munir described the circuit discovery as "worrying".
"He was on the way to board flight TG 507 for Muscat. After the machine gave the alarm, we checked him manually," said the spokesman.
"We have recovered four live batteries and a circuit, with a button to switch it on and off," Munir said.
The suspect allegedly told investigators he was living in Karachi, Pakistan's southern city, but was planning to return to Muscat, where he had previously worked for a construction company, to set up his own business.
"The devices found from the suspect suggested that if he was carrying explosive material, he could have easily blown the explosives up in the plane," said Munir.
Sunday's arrest comes a week after US agents arrested a Pakistani-American man, Faisal Shahzad, for allegedly attempting to blow up a car bomb in New York, as he sat on a plane preparing to take off for Dubai.
Although the circumstances of the Karachi case were murky, the detention is likely to ratchet up US pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist extremists operating in safe havens in tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The United States on Sunday accused the Pakistani Taliban of being behind the plot to detonate a car bomb in Manhattan's Times Square on May 1.
"We've now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack," Attorney General Eric Holder said on ABC television.
"We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it, and that he was working at their direction."
General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has reportedly urged Pakistan's army chief of staff to launch an operation in the tribal district of North Waziristan, an Al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold.
John Brennan, the White House deputy national security adviser, said Shahzad had travelled back and forth to Pakistan, working with the Pakistani Taliban over several months before returning to the United States in February.
US authorities have said the Shahzad case reflects a change in tactics by Islamist extremists, who have been hard hit over the past year by US missile strikes and Pakistani military offensives.
On Christmas Day, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested for trying to blow up a US-bound airliner with explosives sewn into his underware.
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